Friday, February 26, 2010

The Michigan Avenue Bridge

During the last couple of weeks, we have spent a significant amount of time studying the architecture and monuments of Chicago. In his chapter “the White City”, Alan Trachtenberg discusses the prominence of classical architecture in the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. The architecture, combined with the general layout of the fair, created a harmonious and ordered atmosphere that stood in parallel to the chaotic, and corrupt city of Chicago.
In addition to examining architecture at the World’s Fair of 1893, our class also studied the advancements of trade and communication that the development of harbors, water canals, and railroads provided for Chicago. As William Cronin mentions in Nature’s Metropolis, the early Chicago boosters realized the importance of “making a landscape accessible to a market, which meant fostering regular exchange between city and country. Urban-rural commerce was the motor of frontier change…” (Cronin 48).
The Michigan Avenue Bridge, which spans the Chicago River, is located between the Wrigley Building and the tribune tower and combines the themes of architecture and landscape accessibility. The Michigan Avenue Bridge is a double leaf bascule bridge, which means that it is ‘moveable’ and uses a large axle called a trunnion to raise its two leaves so that boats can pass underneath. Daniel Burnham proposed the building of the bridge in 1909 as part of his vast development plan for Chicago, and when the bridge was completed in 1920 it served as the major thoroughfare between the north side of Chicago and downtown. The Madison Avenue Bridge was designated as a Chicago Landmark in 1991, and hosts the McCormick Tribune Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum in its southwest tower.

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